IT and US: An Official Little Italy in Brooklyn, NY
- WTI Magazine #138 Apr 17, 2021
The Italian Enclaves Historical Society's founder, Raymond Guarini, has garnered support from FIAO (Federation of Italian American Organizations of Brooklyn, Ltd.) and the local district's councilman, Justin Brannan, to have Dyker Heights' 13th Avenue designated as an official Little Italy historic district.
Guarini started a petition on Change.org that received over 3,000 signatures by local residents and business owners. News spread fast and when News 12 contacted Guarini, he suggested that the interview also include the owner of La Bella Marketplace, a popular store providing imported specialty foods from Italy. Nicholas Pesce, owner of La Bella Marketplace, offered his support, noting that the area's Italian community could use the reinforcement.
The Italian Enclaves Historical Society was founded in 2019 and is a work in progress whose main purpose is to highlight Italian neighborhoods and churches throughout the United States since the Italian diaspora of the mid-to-late 19th century. The organization's website lists many neighborhoods and churches, and the list continues to grow as the society's research frequently unveils unknown enclaves across different snapshots in time in the last 150 years. The Italian Enclaves Historical Society has utilized its steadily growing social media presence to draw support from the various Italian communities in the United States.
When the concept of turning 13th Avenue into a Little Italy was brought to councilman Brennan, he turned to Brooklyn's largest Italian organization, the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, also known as FIAO, for them to weigh-in. In what was reported to be a unanimous decision by "the federation" as they're often referred, the project got its validation. Since then, Guarini has received overwhelming support from local businesses, one of which has offered to paint all of the telephone poles and fire hydrants in the colors of the Italian flag, "tricolore." Others have offered funds to help with the painting of a mural as well as aiding to fund "Welcome to Little Italy" lights across both ends of the proposed district, Bay Ridge Parkway to 86th Street.
The project anticipates receiving funding from the city in addition to local merchants and residents. Such an ambitious project should keep its momentum and the best way to do that is by adding signatures to the petition, which you can do here.